My Image Journey—a Sweet Surrender
Part 2 of a three-part series by Mary Jane Mahan, author, actor, Authentic Beauty writer and reformed makeup chicken (maryjanebrain.com)
Alyson Hoag is simply brilliant, a true revolutionary. Not only is she waking up women who’ve been brainwashed by the cosmetics industry to give up our authentic power, she’s reaching gals like me who’ve shunned the whole makeup conversation. I represent Aly’s “tomboy” contingency, you know, those naked face gals who’ve dug an inner foxhole to protect themselves from the “evils” of makeup and all things “girly” and (gasp) pink.
Whatever, MJ. What we resist persists, right? Two years of avoiding the Image Journey service was starting to hurt like that Ryan Adams song. Who was I kidding? I faced the hard truth that I was giving lip service (sans gloss) to my “self-empowered, fully expressed woman” image. My new beliefs in strength through vulnerability were nearly collapsing under immature dissin’ of cosmetics. I needed a makeover in more ways than one.
Seriously, did I come back this time around to be Schwarzenegger? A rocky mountain face? A Mercedes Benz or a platypus for crying out loud? NO! I’m here in a woman’s body that is soft and strong, graceful and feminine, authentically beautiful with or without a painted face. If the shoe fits, wear it.
My bratty attitude was becoming costly, too. I’d recently added actor and speaker to my author resume (can we say image management?). If I ever expected to be taken seriously in Hollywood or on the speaker circuit, I’d best get out of my foxhole and into an AB salon chair. Besides, I had an upcoming audition that I knew I could kill with a little smoky eye. Nothing like a motivational deadline!
Thank goddess for Champagne and Shadows, the relaxed Friday night party held monthly in the AB studio. These events were key in dissolving my fear, and the Valentine’s festivities broke me open. There I was licking chocolate fondue and my neuroses as I watched Dr. Cara’s pole dancing and girls playing with lipstick. I wanted so badly to enjoy the complimentary services yet inside I was fighting it like a two-year-old.
That’s when makeup brush designer and AB artist Shana King appeared by my side. Sensing my unease, she gazed lovingly at my face and coo-cooed in a soft, confident voice, “I’d love to play with you and help you create your look.” A weight came off my shoulders and I booked my appointment with Stephanie that night. Now onto the Image Journey homework: creating my vision board.
This is supposed to be a simple, fun exercise in selecting magazine pictures that capture one’s eye. I didn’t have the guts to tell my friend Aly that for the last eight months I’d been stuttering and stalling as if this was Devil work (and I call myself an AB volunteer?). My first real homework attempt resulted in me angrily ripping out pages of Jezebel and crumpling them up in a ball, hot tears streaming down my face. All the stories I’d invented around makeup and my image were eating me alive.
Self-inflicted drama be gone! My appointment with Shana loomed. A day later I was stopped dead in my tracks in Barnes and Noble’s magazine section. There was the gorgeous Natalie Portman decked out in rocker chic smoky eye and a “faux mo” hairstyle. This was not the soft Star Wars Princess and girly Oscar nominee that I loved so. This was a bad ass, confident, sexy, bold siren pushing the limits. If she could do it, so could I. In a daze, I quickly reached for my Crackberry. Before I could think Padmé, I hit the camera button. SNAP.
OMG, there were sexy women that I admired everywhere in this aisle! Jennifer Aniston’s classic clean style, yep. SNAP. Angelina Jolie, that looks fresh. SNAP. Michelle Obama, hmmmm, so beautiful and not me. Oooh, who’s this native androgynous man with the green eyes? Wow! SNAP. I juggled my coffee and phone and kept snapping images that called out to me, praying management wouldn’t bust me for manhandling their periodicals. Hey, when the moment appears, Carpe Diem!
T-minus four hours to my Image Journey. Coffee, stick glue, scissors, images, huge plastic board, four lesbian CDs for strength…I was feeling slightly queasy. What was missing? Me! I sprinted to find a joyful, triumphant shot of me with my Love at the Pub book baby—and not a stitch of makeup visible (part of my authentic look). Still wary of the whole thing (oh shut up already), I marked my territory with huge orange highlighter writing across and down the sides: “Mary Jane’s Image Journey (gosh dangit)”.
Things started moving once I gave myself permission to put any image on my board and not limit it to makeup. A lesbian playwright in her 60s went right beside a “disheveled done well” sexy brunette with hot smoky eyes. Her action pose was crowned with a flawless, red-lipped Christina Applegate who sat next to an arty girl with Princess Leia hair next to (yet another) Jennifer Aniston image. Mother Angelia nestled next to an angelic young girl inspired by Eve Ensler’s I am an Emotional Creature.
Going through Jezebel was a much different experience this go around, and I ripped out a huge bronze statuesque Charlize Theron with reverence. A kick boxer, a television producer, a naked couple in bed, a butch and femme female pair, a bisexual and bald Ani DiFranco, the feminine Asian beauty of Ming-Na. Uh-oh, where’s the queen and vice-president of my internal board of directors, Madonna? Once again I flew to the computer and chose her iconic image from the Express Yourself tour. I was in the flow and loving this feeling of freedom.
The playful factor kicked up another notch when the women started telling me of where they wanted to go on the board! Their images started overlapping each other and I could feel who wanted to be next to whom. Are you comfortable here, dear? Childhood joy of being gentle with my sisters flooded my heart, and my hardened rugby persona melted. When did I confuse soft as weak? Suddenly I was protective, gingerly gluing Lady GaGa’s tiny outstretched arm—delicate yet strong.
I was moved to tears as decades of fragile girl fears washed away on the Image Board. Lo and behold, coffee spilled on my highlighted name and the imaginary boundary began to fade. What a metaphor and miracle. My stubborn defense to stay isolated was running faster than mascara. We’re here on Earth for so little time, why not let these hurt feelings go? Why not embrace my visibility as a woman instead of hiding alone in the corner afraid of lip liner? I can always wash it off or just let it fade away.
What a long journey home to Aly’s core AB message: You Shine Through. I’m listening, girl, makeup is for PLAY. I picked up my completed Image Journey board and kissed it, celebrating my Unity with sisters and their overlapping faces. Interestingly enough, Madonna was the sole holdout. Hers was the only image who wouldn’t tolerate being touched by another woman. Hmmm? Maybe the queen could use an internal makeover? I’m just saying! In Part 3, I’ll share Shana King’s amused horror at my 1980s makeup bag and the splendid results of my Image Journey. Thanks for reading.